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Evangelical women in Australia get in a tangle over hair length

Evangelical women in Australia get in a tangle over hair length

Last weekend in Australia a bunch of evangelical women  – several thousand actually – flocked to an evangelical Christian conference in Sydney, devoted to what it means to be “a godly woman”.

I have no idea what they expected to be told, but when Carmelina Read, above, Dean of Women at the Presbyterian Christ College in Sydney, get onto the subject of God wanting women to wear their hair long discontent erupted and a number walked out.

According to this report, during a talk about the meaning of Bible verses on male headship – where men are leaders in the home and the church – an image of newly-shorn actress Kristen Stewart, above, flashed onto an overhead screen.

Was this platinum blonde’s buzz cut, asked Read, appropriate for a woman? Was it feminine and submissive, or did it signal independence and rebellion?

She added:

It might be more in line with God’s good design to have long hair because it was a visible sign of the difference between men and women in which God delighted.

But what disturbed some attendees even more — roughly 3,000 Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptist women were there, with an estimated 1,600 watching by livestream — was that another contentious issue had surfaced at the Sydney Convention Centre: that women should also consider themselves “helpers” of men in the workplace.

One conference speaker said if a woman became a CEO:

She should perform her role in a way that was helpful to men.

And a video was shown in which a female minister said:

What makes her happy is when she is able to make her male colleagues ‘shine’.

This all boils down to some cockamamie doctrine called “headship”. The doctrine, in short, dictates that men are to be the heads of women in the church as well as in marriage. Verses discussed in 1 Corinthians 11 say:

… the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head — it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

The idea of headship has long divided Protestants in Australia, with the conservative pockets — where women are not allowed to be priests, such as the Sydney Anglican diocese, and Presbyterian church — adhering to it most vigorously.

Read reportedly said her experience showed her that it is not possible to be Christian and a feminist. Feminism would “trick me into thinking that God’s design isn’t good,” she said, leading her to sinfully think:

I want headship; I want control. More and more the world thinks in a gender-neutral way that we’re people and not men and women. But God delights in the beauty of our gender. We want to live in a way that celebrates that God has made us women. That shows we delight in the way that Jesus delights in submitting to his father. No longer a Christian feminist but a Christian woman.

Registered nurse Louisa Macourt, from the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Sydney, wrote afterwards that Ms Read’s remarks were:

Incredibly heartbreaking.

Macourt added:

But I keep coming back to the same place — that God has gifted both men and women equally and he wants all of us to use our gifts to glorify him and the whole church.

One commenter, Jen Wright, said Read’s remarks had been taken out of context.

She did not say that short hair is wrong, but used it as an example of some ways some people choose to feel empowered by feeling more masculine. It is not about an act, but an attitude.

[Read] was on about celebrating us as women. All the speakers and presenters humbly and thoroughly worked through difficult issues and passages to present the conference on Saturday and I thank God for their preparation, humility and wisdom.

15 responses to “Evangelical women in Australia get in a tangle over hair length”

  1. L.Long says:

    Totally Agree with the conference! These women should submit to my male will, and dress properly, have long hair. And by the same rules, I can enjoy my long messy hair and long ugly ragged beard.
    or … don’t like the dogmatic stupid BS rules? Grow up, take responsibility, THINK, and quit!!!!

  2. barriejohn says:

    I put up with years of this as a member of the Brethren. Some even teach that women should NEVER cut their hair, and that they should have their heads covered (with a “veil”) at all times (24 hours a day!), much as many Puritans did in the past. And if you want an example of real stupidity and ignorance from the Bible you need look no further than this:

    “Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Doesn’t nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.” (I Cor. 11:13-14)

    No; nature teaches no such thing. Didn’t the writer realize that if he left HIS hair uncut it would grow long as well? Yet Christians quite unashamedly take these words as “the inspired Word of God”!

  3. gedediah says:

    I love when fundies say what’s in the Bible is supported by nature, when it just isn’t. Someone needs to break it to all those gay penguins and swans, etc.

  4. sailor1031 says:

    If any of these women don’t know and can’t imagine how incredibly inconvenient and time consuming it is for a woman (or anyone else) to deal with hair that has never been cut, I’ll let them speak to my lovely wife the ex-mennonite.

  5. Paul says:

    I wonder what the Spartans would say. They loved their long hair. And I don’t think I’d like to be opposed to them on the battlefield.
    Oh and are not most of the bullshit icons with Jesus showing him with long hair.

  6. Trevor Blake says:

    Sometimes Christians realize that their religion has clearly defined rules, thousands of years of applying those rules and (the shock revelation) as Christians those rules apply to them. And by “sometimes” I mean every day.

    That’s when Christianity is revealed as mostly “the bits I like but not the bits I hate, and no study into what was.”

    I hope those having their shock revelation will keep asking questions about their faith. There is a simple answer awaiting them.

  7. Angela_K says:

    Reading that report is depressing. Did I, and others waste our time in the 60’s and 70’s fighting for equality and further back, fighting for the right to vote. These religious loony women are traitors to the cause of egalitarianism.

  8. barriejohn says:

    Trevor Blake: Christians talk a lot about “seeking the mind of God” on matters like this, where they don’t like what the Bible teaches. Amazingly, the mind of God (who was an ancient, patriarchal, bigoted, misogynistic, reactionary, tribal Hebrew deity) turns out to be perfectly in step with modern, twenty-first century liberal thought. They never seem to be embarrassed by this.

  9. barriejohn says:

    Angela: Like the Muslim women, they will tell you that THEY are the ones who have been truly liberated. It’s sad. I was appalled that the (lady) Mayor of Croydon accepted an invitation to an Exclusive Hales Meeting a couple of years back, and wrote such a glowing testimonial to them (they are making big efforts to promote themselves publicly). I see that she was wearing a hat, and I bet she wasn’t given the opportunity to have HER say at the meeting!

    http://laurencemoffitt.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/mayor-of-croydon-visits-the.html

    PS The comments are well worth reading.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Sailor1031: Too true. We moved in with my grandmother when my grandfather died of a heart attack, and she had never cut her hair, but wore it in an enormous bun (like the famed “Brethren Bun”). It’s a good job that my mother was easy-going, as not only was she employed as a skivvy, but it fell to her to wash my grandmother’s hair and dry it, in the kitchen without modern aids. I well remember what a job that was for her!

  11. Vanity Unfair says:

    sailor 1031:
    “I’ll let them speak to my lovely wife… ”
    Was that sarcasm? If not, tut, tut.

  12. John the Drunkard says:

    If anyone should take seriously the injunctions against women preaching or speaking in public….

  13. Robster says:

    Doesn’t their old book of nonsense say something about the ladies keeping quiet and not teaching the blokes or something? These silly women probably can’t read, they do, as adults believe in a magic sky fairy.

  14. 1859 says:

    Hassidic wives always have wonderful heads of hair – but it’s all fake. They are not allowed out without their hair covered, so being very ingenious they put on enormous wigs, even in the heat of summer! Lunacy and subjugation go hand in hand.

  15. Peterat says:

    I have a slightly different take on how women should practice “headship”, but that’s just me.